The AAJA Columbia J-School chapter is unique in that it takes on a new form every year. Columbia’s School of Journalism offers Graduate programs that typically last 10 months — so the new batch of students that enter the program each year have the freedom to shape the organization as they see fit for their particular group. In the beginning of the school year, elections are held to pick the board members that will lead that year’s AAJA Columbia. This year, every slot was filled, and our organization has a full board that includes a President, a VP, a Secretary, Event Coordinators, and a Chapter Liaison. Our chapter advisor is Duy Linh Tu, who is a professor at the J-School and the Director of Digital Media.
So why did these members join AAJA Columbia — and volunteer their time and effort for this organization?
“Aside from being Asian, a lot of us have an interest in writing about Asia,” said Seres Lu, a Master of Science candidate at the Journalism School. “AAJA offers a great way for us to come together and leverage a bigger network.” Seres, as one of the Event Coordinators, worked on several different projects this term to bring speakers like Vivian Yee and Jiayang Fan to campus.
Kimberly Tan, the Vice President of the group, had many responsibilities this term, planning and executing items on the AAJA Columbia agenda. “I’ve enjoyed being a member of AAJA in Columbia because I get to see how so many Asians are making it big in the journalism industry,” she said. “More importantly, I’ve learned how willing they are — despite their success — to help younger Asian journalists.”
Having an organization like AAJA Columbia gave us the opportunity to plan events ourselves — and try to snag great speakers and journalists who could give us real advice in a more intimate setting. It was a great way to foster support within our community and give assistance to students who were either interested in AAJA or what our events had to offer. Journalism is a tough field, and as Asians or Asian American Pacific Islanders, we have certain barriers to overcome that could be better dealt with when we have the support and awareness within our community.
Our meetings served as a fun time for us to catch up as classmates, but it also motivated us to stay on top of things in order to plan ahead for events that we might want to plan or speakers that we would want to invite. In many different ways, it was a great way to meet and connect with fellow journalists.